chapter  5
40 Pages

The retail revolution: the response to the demands from the nineteenth-century consumer

This chapter looks at some aspects of how retailing operated and interacted with its customers. The home furnishing retailers in the nineteenth century were able to continue a tradition that had been fully established in the eighteenth century, which required them to supply goods, and more especially services and advice, to a growing population. The 'retail revolution' was a process that operated at different speeds and intensities within varied trades. The apparent obsession of customers with the latest thing, the fashionable and the stylish was ridiculed by reformers and commentators alike in the nineteenth century, but was harnessed by the retailers to make business. The variety of retail outlets, services and products demonstrates a response to the growing demand for furniture at all levels of society. Apart from window displays, in-store vignettes of rooms and full interior decorating departments, the nineteenth-century retailer made a point of producing a wide variety of magazine-style catalogues for consumer use.